Quite a number of modern horror movies have been inspired by the best East Asia has had to offer. From direct adaptations like The Ring or The Grudge or directors citing influences from masters like Takashi Miike or Bong Joon-ho, horror movies from east Asia have been consistently exciting while Hollywood’s output has had its ups and downs.
With the spookiest season of all, Halloween, upon us, Netflix has some cool horror selections to check out from South Korea and Hong Kong. (There’s no Japanese selections besides supernatural anime like Death Note or Attack on Titan. We’ll update if Netflix surprises us before the weekend is finished.)
5. Rigor Mortis
Back in the ‘80s, Sammo Hung fused comedy, kung fu, and supernatural horror into one with the breakout Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind. A load of supernatural-based martial arts films followed, like 1985’s Mr. Vampire, but director Juno Mak leaned into actual horror with his own fusion film Rigor Mortis from 2013.
Chin Siu-ho, the star of Mr. Vampire, plays a fictionalized version of himself in Rigor Mortis as a washed-up actor who moves into a haunted apartment. Devoid of colors but not lacking in action, Chin teams up with a retired vampire hunter living in the apartment to get rid of the ghosts terrorizing the place. It’s worth diving into if you’re sick of teens who are always running from Freddy and Jason instead of fighting them head on.
4. The Midnight After
Based on the webseries Lost on a Red Mini Bus to Taipo, The Midnight After from director Fruit Chan is the story of a large group of diverse characters who board a Hong Kong bus while the city slowly, and mysteriously, empties around them. The film was and is intended as a politically charged satire on the state of Hong Kong, which might be lost on everyone else not intimate with the state of affairs, but it’s still worth checking as a bizarre and spooky romp for the Halloween season.
3. The Host
If you haven’t seen Bong Joon-ho’s 2006 instant classic The Host, shame on you. But you can correct that, because it’s currently on Netflix, and it’s still as refreshingly sharp as it was ten years ago. In The Host, a family struggles to stick together while South Korea goes into panic when a freak monster created out of chemical waste ravages the country.
Politically charged and easily interpreted as a condemnation against the United States — it was based on a 2000 incident in which a Korean mortician working on behalf of the U.S. dumped a volume of formaldehyde down a drain — it’s still honest and uncompromising a decade later.
Another Hong Kong movie, this Simon Yam-starring horror picture stars Yam as a Catholic serial killer who takes it upon himself to kill suicidal individuals so they may enter heaven. Released in 2012, scope this one out if the notion of “noble serial killers” were ruined for you after Dexter.
1. The Silenced
Although it isn’t strictly a horror movie, The Silenced (not to be confused with Silenced another South Korean thriller) is set in 1938 Gyeongseong during Japanese occupation. Park Bo-young stars as a young sick girl named Shizuko, who is transferred to a girls’ boarding school to recover. She does rather quickly, but she begins noticing the girls disappear one by one while her own body changes before her. A slightly gothic thriller with metaphors about adolescence, The Silenced is a great thriller that doesn’t rely on the usual ghosts and serial killers to keep the suspense up.